TDG 2022 PLAYERS TO AVOID: STARTING PITCHER
Firstly, you should save yourself a world of pain and generally avoid pitchers as a class in the first 25 picks of your dynasty draft, aside from a few exceptions—mainly, Corbin Burnes, Gerrit Cole, and Jacob deGrom, and perhaps Shane Bieber and Brandon Woodruff once you get near pick 25 . This group is too good to not consider in the first 25 picks, but they are the exception, not the rule (and yes, deGrom is a big injury risk and not for the faint of heart, but he is also, ya know, Jacob deGrom and it only small exaggeration to say he can win you your league only using the pinky finger on his left hand). Exceptions aside, pitchers break down too randomly and often to be deserving of a top 25 dynasty pick, and nobody outside of deGrom, Cole, Burnes, Bieber, and Woodruff has set themselves apart enough yet to be worth the risk. As per Fantrax’s dynasty ADP ranks, the aforementioned top five pitchers are the only pitchers to have an ADP rank among the top 26 overall players and a projected 2022 value among the top 30 overall players (per Fangraph’ auction calculator using Depth Charts projections, default settings). Once you subjectively add in a penalty (even just a small one) to account for increased injury risk for pitchers, it is hard to justify spending a top 25 selection on one outside of the elite trio, and also Woodruff and Bieber once you get near pick 25 (note Bieber could join the exceptional trio for me if he shows his shoulder is healthy in 2022). The ‘old pitcher discount,’ with top projected arms like Max Scherzer available outside the top 40 of dynasty ADP rank, makes avoiding pitchers early an easier decision.
Now, it’s time for nobody’s favorite exercise in negativity (why did I volunteer for this article!): finding a specific pitcher to avoid. To accomplish this, I used FanGraphs auction calculator (default settings) with Steamer projections to generate a list of players who were being drafted too early, while maintaining a dynasty mindset. Among pitchers with a top 50 pitcher dynasty ADP rank, Ian Anderson was the most overdrafted. If his Steamer projection is any indication, you should hold off on Anderson at his current ADP. However, Steamer is the lowest projection system on Anderson—it projects a 4.39 ERA whereas others project an ERA closer to 4.00—and all dynasty rankings I’ve seen have him among the top 175 overall (pitchers and hitters). Should I be on #teamSteamer here or not?
Anderson was dominant across 6 starts in his 2020 MLB debut, with a 1.95 ERA, a 20 K%-BB%, a strong 8.9 launch angle allowed, and a 3.45 xFIP. His minor league K%-BB% rates were typically not as strong, with Clay Davenport grading them as slightly below MLB average, and in 2021, his MLB K%-BB% indeed regressed to 13.3%, slightly below MLB average. He continued to keep the ball down in 2021, however, improving his launch angle allowed to an elite 6.4 degrees, which allowed him to succeed, and post a slightly sub-4 xFIP, despite mediocre K% and BB%. His velocity was stable in 2021, but his stuff+ score (a metric published at The Athletic that grades the quality of a pitcher’s stuff) declined from above average in 2020 to well below average in 2021, and his stuff-derived xK% and xBB% (another metric from that grades the quality of a pitcher’s stuff, this one published by @Pitching_Bot) were also well below average in 2021.
Overall, I might take the under on Anderson’s Steamer projection and side more with ATC on this one (3.99 ERA), but that still leaves Anderson as too costly for me at this point. He’s quite young and has a bright future ahead of him, with plenty of Ks and groundballs—but also, it seems, plenty of walks. In a 15-team context, he’s currently being treated as an SP3—I would be much more comfortable with him as my SP5.